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On May 28, the CDC updated its guidance for operating youth camps including an outline of planning and preparing for camp, as well as guidance on promoting the vaccine.

The key points to this update include:

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and widely accessible in the United States.
  • Everyone aged 12 years and older is recommended to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible to keep from getting and spreading COVID-19.
  • This guidance is intended for all types of youth day and overnight camps.
  • For camps where everyone is fully vaccinated prior to the start of camp, it is safe to return to full capacity, without masking, and without physical distancing in accordance with CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People; except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations.
  • Although people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks, camp programs should be supportive of campers or staff who choose to wear a mask.
  • Consistent and layered use of multiple prevention strategies can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect people who are not fully vaccinated including campers, staff and their families.
  • This guidance describes physical distancing recommendations for youth camps. These recommendations align with current evidence for physical distancing in K-12 schools.
  • Campers should be assigned to cohorts that will remain together for the entire camp session without mixing, to the largest extent possible.
  • This CDC guidance is meant to supplement — not replace — any federal, state, local, territorial or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which camps must comply

In an interview with “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday, May 30, Kevin Washington, the president and CEO of the YMCA of the USA, said he’s happy with the CDC’s updated guidelines for children.

“We’re hopeful it will be an exciting summer for young people,” said Washington during the interview. “We know they experienced significant difficulties over the past year with school being virtual and isolation away from their friends. We’re happy with the CDC guidelines they put forth and we know the YMCA of the USA and all of our affiliates will operate camp for fun and safety with all of these CDC guidelines in mind. We learned a lot last year when the pandemic was in place. Some of our camps did run and because of the partnership we had with the CDC and the American Camping Association, we feel very confident about being able to put forth a summer where kids will have fun, enjoy themselves, have some learnings, meet some new friends and be engaged in what I would call a summer of fun for our young folks who really need it this summer. It will help their emotional, social and physical activities they’re looking for this year.”

According to the CDC’s new guidelines, planning and preparing are important steps to take before reopening and for continuing camp operations.

When creating a plan, the CDC said it should, at a minimum, address the following topics:

  • Strongly encourage COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible campers and staff.
  • Document protocol/policy differences, if any, for people who are fully vaccinated versus those who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Health screening for infectious illnesses, including COVID-19.
  • Diagnostic and screening testing for COVID-19.
  • The application of multiple prevention strategies to protect people who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Reviewing safety protocols for staff and campers who are at increased risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19.
  • Modifying camp activities to choose safer activities such as outdoor over indoor activities.
  • Travel to and from overnight camp.
  • Travel to and from offsite camp activities.
  • Cleaning facilities and equipment.
  • Proper use of personal protective equipment by any healthcare staff.
  • Consider implementation of flexible, supportive paid sick leave and supportive policies and practices as part of a comprehensive approach to prevent and reduce transmission.
  • Policies and practices that allow families flexibility, such as changing camp registration dates, if campers or their families are affected by COVID-19 — such as being in quarantine, isolation or waiting on COVID-19 test results.
  • Managing a suspected or confirmed case(s) of COVID-19, including contact tracing efforts in combination with isolation for the ill person(s) and quarantine.
  • Planning for an outbreak.
  • Establishment of correspondence and contact information for local and state health departments in the event of an outbreak.
  • Provision of maps/directions to the nearest hospital or emergency treatment facility.
  • Designation of a staff person — for example, camp nurse or other healthcare provider — to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. All camp staff and families should know who this person is and have that person’s contact information.
  • Ensure communication with parents and caregivers about camp policies and practices.

In addition to planning and preparing in the updated guidance for operating youth camps, the CDC elaborated camps can help increase vaccine uptake among campers, their families and staff by providing information about COVID-19 vaccination, promoting vaccination, and establishing supportive policies and practices that make it as easy and convenient as possible for staff and others to get vaccinated.

To promote vaccination, camps can:

  • Visit vaccines.gov to find out where staff, campers and their families can get vaccinated in their community.
  • Develop educational messaging for vaccination campaigns to build vaccine confidence, and to emphasize that individuals are fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the vaccine series.
  • Use CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Toolkits to educate camp families and communities and promote COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Offer flexible, supportive leave options — such as paid sick leave — for staff to get vaccinated and to those who may experience side effects after vaccination.
  • Remind camp families that in addition to COVID-19 vaccination, children and adolescents should continue to obtain all recommended routine and catch-up vaccinations in order to protect themselves, peers and staff from other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Read the CDC’s full, updated Guidance for Operating Youth Camps including information on the following sections:

  • Guidance for Day or Overnight Camps Where Everyone is Fully Vaccinated
  • Guidance for Camps Where not Everyone is Fully Vaccinated
  • Additional Guidance for Overnight Camps
  • General Considerations for all Camps
  • Maintaining Healthy Environments
  • Maintaining Healthy Operations
  • Preparing for When Someone Gets Sick
  • Support Coping and Resilience
Brittany Howard

Brittany is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com.

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